cover image The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth

The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth

Ben Witherington, III / Author InterVarsity Press $19.99 (304p

Over the past 10 years or so, biblical critics have poked and prodded the canonical Gospels in an attempt to resurrect the historical Jesus for the late 20th century. Witherington (Jesus, the Sage, etc.) explores the stunning variety of portraits of the Nazarene drawn by contemporary critics from John Dom Crossan to John P. Meier. By way of introduction, he suggests the resemblances of this so-called ``third quest'' for the historical Jesus to the earlier quests of late-19th and mid-20th century scholars to locate the Jesus of history behind the Christ of faith. In addition, Witherington argues here that any portrait of Jesus succeeds or fails according to the extent to which it recognizes the fundamental character of his Jewish self-identity. Each chapter assesses the strengths and weaknesses of particular contemporary understandings of Jesus. For instance, the methods and conclusions of the Jesus Seminar are attacked as spurious and ahistorical, while Meier and his monumental A Marginal Jew are praised for properly locating the life and work of Jesus in their Jewish context. Witherington provides a good overview of recent Jesus scholarship. Unfortunately, it's too often overshadowed by the fact that, when differing from other scholars, his tone is unjustifiably combative and sometimes pejorative.(Dec.)